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The Irony of Food, Nutrition, and Cooking at Home
Thu, May 19th
On Food, Nutrition, and Trying To Do the Right Thing

There are certain ironies surrounding food and nutrition, among them:

  • At a time when we have the best understanding of food and nutritional in history, we have the highest rates of heart disease, type II diabetes, and obesity.
  • Many iconic American food brands (e.g.: Kraft, McDonald's, Coca-Cola, Krispy Kreme, etc) produce products that ultimately harm (and/or kill) the consumer.
  • While the nutritional data on food products looks comprehensive, ingredients that make up less than 1% are exempt from listing.[1]
  • The FDA just reversed 30 years of nutritional advice regarding cholesterol and fat. The new guidance on cholesterol reads: "cholesterol is not a nutrient of concern for overconsumption"[2].

One of the most interesting (and most subtle) ironies to me is that it's easier to know what you're getting when you eat a Snickers bar or drink a Starbucks latte than it is to know what you're getting when you cook a meal at home. I suspect the reason for this is that it's not an easy problem to solve, e.g.:

  • The underlying FDA food data is a mess[3].
  • One person's "medium-sized potato" is another's "large-sized".
  • A lot of nutritional data is incomplete.
  • Different sources have different numbers for the same ingredient and measure[4].
  • As it turns out, the data on the package doesn't necessarily have to match the exact ingredient[5].
  • (etc / ad inifinitum)
Help Is On the Way!

As a quick aside, you may have noticed that no conductor has ever begun a concert by apologizing for the performance that's about to unfold. Think about this for a minute, it's difficult to imagine hearing: "... the lead violin player has a cold, and so their playing might not be top notch" or . .."the timpani section didn't get very much practice this week due to a water leak in the percussion room".

It just doesn't happen (even if the violinist has a cold and the timpani are soaked).

Therefore, I'm not going to introduce foodious by apologizing for it's shortcomings[6][7]. I will tell you that foodious goes a long way towards helping people who prepare food in their own homes understand what they are eating.

Users can discover new recipes, add their own recipes, and modify others recipes, and foodious will show the nutritional breakdown by "totals" and also by each individual ingredient.

Not only that, it will show you how, via rich ingredient classification and transparent nutritional data.

There's a lot more to the story than that, which I will endeavor to articulate in future blog posts. In the meantime, the about page is probably worth a quick look.

--tom
[1] Ask me what I can do with 0.9% Azodicarbonamide!
[2] Or if you prefer, this version: "If you connect the dots together scientifically, we don't believe there is a strong influence between dietary cholesterol and blood cholesterol"
[3] The FDA data for plain Greek yogurt has a quantity and measure of "1 container". Exactly what a "container" is in terms of weight/volume is unclear at this time.
[4] Why this is is also unclear. I was under the impression that all data came from the FDA but now I'm not so sure.
[5] All forms of tahini (e.g.: "black tahini", "tahini", "tahini paste" are all mapped to the same FDA ingredient, which even includes a note that says "Most common type", i.e.: "Seeds, sesame butter, tahini, from roasted and toasted kernels (most common type)".
[6] It has many shortcomings (trust me on this), but it's upside far outweighs any negatives.
[7] (read: I did my best here)
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